Saturday, August 20, 2016

Air medical personnel who died in 2015 honored in Saturday memorial: Family, friends and colleagues honor loved ones

LITTLETON, Colo. – Those in Colorado’s Air Medical field can’t forget July 3, 2015. It was on that day that Flight for Life Helicopter Pilot Patrick Mahany died in a fiery crash 70 miles west of Denver in the town of Frisco.

Family, friends and colleagues came together on Saturday morning to honor Mahany and 15 other Air Medical personnel who died in the line of duty last year.

The Air Medical Memorial Ceremony in Littleton has been held annually since 2010. This year’s ceremony was especially important to Flight for Life Flight Nurse David Kearns.

“The people that are speaking are telling stories that you know. They’re talking about somebody that you know intimately,” said Kearns.

He worked with Pilot Patrick Mahany and Flight Nurse Kristin McLain.

McLain previously worked in Colorado, but died when she fell during an evening rescue operation on April 27th, 2015 in Texas.

Mahany and McLain are just two of 16 Air Medical personnel who died last year.

The Air Medical Memorial Ceremony is the only national memorial that honors the more than 400 air medical crew members lost since the 1970s.

Memorial founder Steven Sweeney said he felt there was a need to recognize the fallen because of the risks they have taken and the benefits they have provided to the communities they have served.

Sweeney said crowds have grown each year -- proving there is a need for this type of support. “It says, 'yes! We’re not alone in believing this is a valuable project,'” Sweeney told Denver7.

Sweeney wants to bring a permanent memorial to Littleton to continue to honor all who have died in the line of Air Medical duty.

Groundbreaking started back in 2011 and Sweeney said he expects it to be completed in the next two years.

He said the project has a $1,000,000 budget, but he’s only raised a little more than $100,000 so far. Sweeney said he’s focusing on fundraising efforts.

Story and video:

Patrick Mahany

NTSB Identification: CEN15FA290
Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Friday, July 03, 2015 in Frisco, CO
Aircraft: AIRBUS HELICOPTERS INC AS350B3E, registration: N390LG
Injuries: 1 Fatal, 2 Serious.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On July 3, 2015, at 1339 mountain daylight time, an Airbus Helicopter Inc. (formerly American Eurocopter) AS350B3e helicopter, N390LG, impacted the upper west parking lot 360 feet southwest of the Summit Medical Center helipad (91CO), Frisco, Colorado. A post-impact fire ensued. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The helicopter was registered to and operated by Air Methods Corp and the flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135 on a company flight plan. The airline transport pilot was fatally injured and two flight nurses were seriously injured. The public relations flight was en route to Gypsum, Colorado.

According to Air Methods the helicopter was flying to the American Spirit of Adventure Boy Scout Camp near Gypsum, Colorado, for a public relations mission. Multiple witnesses observed the helicopter lift off from the ground-based helipad, rotate counterclockwise, and climb simultaneously. One witness estimated that the helicopter reached an altitude of 100 feet before it started to descend. The helicopter continued to spin counterclockwise several times before it impacted a parking lot and an RV to the southwest of the Flight for Life hangar and helipad. The helicopter came to rest on its right side, was damaged by impact forces, and was charred, melted, and partially consumed by fire.

Kristin McLain

NTSB Identification: CEN15FA210
14 CFR Public Use
Accident occurred Monday, April 27, 2015 in Austin, TX
Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/14/2016
Aircraft: EUROCOPTER DEUTSCHLAND GMBH MBB BK 117 C-2, registration: N392TC
Injuries: 1 Fatal, 2 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

A helicopter with a pilot, a hoist operator, and a helicopter rescue specialist (rescuer) on board was dispatched to transport an injured person out of an area of rough terrain. Based on the patient's location and the time of the call, a night hoist operation was planned. The helicopter arrived on scene, and the hoist operator lowered the rescuer and equipment from the helicopter. While the rescuer and ground personnel prepared the patient for transport, the pilot and hoist operator looked for a nearby landing zone. Upon hearing radio calls from the rescuer that the patient was ready, the helicopter returned to the patient's location, and the hoist operator lowered the hoist hook. The patient, who was in a Bauman bag, and the rescuer were then lifted from the ground by the hoist. The hoist operator continued to reel in the patient and the rescuer as the helicopter transitioned from a hover to forward flight. When the patient and rescuer were about 10 ft below the helicopter's skids, the rescuer fell about 100 ft to the ground. 

The ground personnel who helped the rescuer prepare the patient for transport did not report seeing anything unusual. They said that, during the initial part of the lift, the rescuer and patient went into some tree branches, the helicopter maneuvered away from the tree, and then the rescuer and patient were lifted up towards the helicopter. 

Examination of the rescuer's equipment did not reveal any failures or malfunctions that would explain the fall. Additionally, examination of the hoist hook and helicopter equipment did not reveal any abnormities. Also, review of video from a camera located on the hoist did not identify any failures in the equipment nor did it show how the rescuer was initially hooked into the hoist. In the absence of any equipment failure, it is likely that the rescuer was not properly fastened to the hoist.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The helicopter rescue specialist was not properly attached to the hoist system, which resulted in a fall during a night hoist operation.

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